The Ultimate DC Pizza Rankings (Vegan Style)

The following is a guest blog post by The Avocadbro, a vegan food blogger who shares his greatest animal-free eating adventures on Instagram


I imagine being asked to rank my favorite vegan-friendly pizza restaurants feels the same as being a parent who is asked to rank their favorite kids. All my favorite dairy-free pizza places are amazing in their own way.

Why am I ranking vegan pizza places you may ask?

Well, Shavuot is this week! Shavuot is the Jewish holiday that celebrates when God gave the Israelites the Torah. For some reason, Jews commemorate this event by eating copious amounts of cheese, and I’d like to provide some dairy-free alternatives for those of us who choose to abstain – or are unable to partake – in the cheese-eating festivities. There are many reasons behind the tradition to consume dairy on Shavuot, but some scholars say it has something to do with Israel being the “land of milk and honey”.

Quick tangent on this…

You might be surprised to find out that the “honey” in this holy phrase isn’t about honey from bees. It’s about honey from dates. As someone who avoids animal products, that’s kind of cool, not bothering bees and all.

But the “milk” part of that phrase is even more surprising. At least two-thirds of the world, including two-thirds of Jews, can’t digest cow’s milk properly. If two thirds of the people who live in a land of milk can’t consume milk, it must get pretty stinky there, right?

Apparently not. In Israel, all 55 Domino’s Pizza locations offer vegan cheese. It’s become one of the most vegan friendly countries in the world.

So, maybe it’s time to rebrand Israel as the “land of almond milk and date honey.”

While Domino’s in the United States still hasn’t caught up, there are no shortage of pizza places in DC that offer vegan cheese.

We’ve got a few pretty delicious vegan-pizza spots worth giving a Shavuot Shout-Out.

I’m quite familiar with DC’s vegan pizza offerings. Pizza is currently in first place as my favorite food. When I first moved to DC about a decade ago, there was one place that I knew of that had vegan cheese: Pizzeria Paradiso. They had the DC market cornered and deserve some special recognition for being trendsetters.

Since then, a vegan cheese company called Daiya emerged and began supplying restaurants around the country with their products. I love Daiya. But if you’ve ever eaten it before and weren’t thrilled, you should know that about six months ago they upped their game in a major way. They came out with a new variety called “Cutting Board” style cheese. Anecdotally, people love it. And slowly, but surely, pizza places have switched over to this new style.

One last thing before I get into the rankings: There’s this myth that vegan cheese is made of weird ingredients. Let me quickly put that myth to rest. It’s not.

Daiya, for example, is mainly a blend of coconut oil and tapioca starch. That’s no weirder than dairy cheese, which could more accurately be called coagulated estrogen excretion from cattle. Sounds more like a Passover plague than an edible food.

Now onto the rankings…

The Elite Three

These places don’t just have vegan cheese (and yummy crust, and a wide selection of veggie toppings). They also have delicious, high-protein vegan meat.

1) Mellow Mushroom: Okay, I’m starting with a chain. But how many pizza places don’t have multiple locations now-a-days? The pizza industry is that strong (yay America!).

Mellow Mushroom’s pizza crust is freaking delicious. Its pizza is considered to be “Southern style.” They recently switched from Daiya cheese to Follow Your Heart cheese, which is very good.  Oh, and they also have vegan calzones. What more could ask for to nourish your late night Torah study seshes?

Pro-tip: Order yourself some vegan pizza with marinated tempeh and sun-dried tomatoes. It tastes incredible.

2) Pi Pizzeria: This place, located in Chinatown, has St. Louis-style deep dish. I love deep dish pizza because it’s more cubic volume of pizza than other styles. They also have Match Meat sausage, which is a really delicious vegan meat.

Word of warning: You have to call six hours ahead of time if you plan to order the vegan deep dish. They lose points for such an oddly strict schedule.

Pro-tip: make it a habit to call them every single morning on your commute to work. That way, you always have a vegan deep dish pizza available to you that evening. (I’m 90% joking – maybe don’t do that if you’re semi-interested in getting summer body ready.)

3) &pizza: Pizza connoisseurs scoff at &pizza because it’s not “real” pizza and gets made in a fancy toaster oven rather than a true pizza oven. But you know what? They’re kinda right. You know what else? Who cares! If you’re in a rush (and if the line isn’t too long), you can get a delicious personal pizza for about $10 and 5 minutes of your time.

Plus, it’s a native DC company and they have Beyond Meat sausage crumbles, which I highly recommend.

Pro-tip: There’s an &pizza location in Terminal C of Reagan National, and most airlines consider your &pizza a “personal item”. Plus, your airplane seat neighbors will be jealous.

Middle Tier

4) Menomale: Full disclaimer: I’ve never eaten here. But they offer both vegan cheese and vegan chicken. That’s pretty awesome. How have I not been here yet? Anyone want to go with me?

5) Duccini’s. This was the first pizza place in DC to get Daiya cheese back in 2010-ish. I remember, because I was there to celebrate that unforgettable occasion (I feel old). Today, they are still rocking the vegan pizza game. Plus, they’re open until 2am on weekends. I’m usually asleep by 10pm after a long night of Netflix, but if you’re cool and party at AdMo clubs, you might enjoy some late night, dairy-free deliciousness.

Pro-tip: They can also make vegan jumbo slices if you call ahead and get the right person on the phone.

6) Pizzeria Paradiso: As far as I know, this was the only place that offered vegan cheese back when I first moved to DC in 2008. Huge points for being part of history. Otherwise, it’s a solid Neapolitan-style pizza place.

7) Pete’s New Haven Pizza: A random city in a random state has its own style of pizza. And after deciding DC was in need of some New Haven, Connecticut culinary pedigree, Pete brought his pizza to DC. They were pretty early in offering vegan cheese. Big points for that.

8) Comet Ping Pong: There’s a dark Internet conspiracy that Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton have ordered vegan cheese pizza from here. Okay, I made that up, but seriously, both of them are vegan and might have ordered pizza from here before.

9) Timber: Wood-fired pizza in Petworth. To be honest, I’ve never eaten here (again, any takers to be my new pizza-eating buddy?). Based on other people’s reviews, this place sounds really good. And I know they offer vegan cheese. I wanted to go on Monday night to prepare for this blog post. But it’s closed on Mondays, resulting in a significant point loss. Some people need pizza at the end of a long Monday (especially before a major derecho). I know I did.

As Pitbull famously wrote, “[Vegan pizza is] going down [my throat]. I’m yelling Timber.”

10) DC Pizza: I’ve never been here either, but they do offer vegan cheese. I think it’s similar to &Pizza, but no vegan sausage option.

Lower Tier

Well, pretty much every other pizza place in DC doesn’t have vegan cheese, which results in a crushing point loss for them. Basically all of the other great pizza places in DC still make pretty good cheese-less pizza (call me crazy, but I prefer cheese on my pizza). As more and more people ditch dairy cheese, these places need to pick up the slack and acknowledge the changing tides.

In Italy, the birthplace of pizza, meat sales are declining. In response, the leading mortadella company in Italy came out with vegan versions of their products. A few years ago, that would’ve been unheard of. As of 2018, the company’s president said:  “It is an incontrovertible fact that the number of consumers choosing vegetarian and vegan [products] is growing.”

And New York City, the most well-known pizza city in the country, is now widely considered to be the most vegan-friendly city, with a large number of lactose struggling Jews and amazing vegan pizza places.

So, my message to Wiseguys, 2 Amys, Ghibellina, il Canale, Etto, Vace, All Purpose, Matchbox, 7th Hill, We The Pizza–heck, let’s throw in Manny & Olga’s, Pizza Boli’s, Ledo’s, Papa John’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut–it’s already the year 5778! (in the Hebrew calendar). Let’s get with the times and start offering vegan cheese.

If you have any questions, you can find me in Adams Morgan blocking traffic on 18th Street as I debate whether to get Mellow Mushroom or Duccini’s.


About the Author: Andrew Friedman is an attorney in Washington, DC. He writes about food, nutrition, and veganism on his blog, The Avocadbro, and shares his favorite vegan eating adventures on Instagram. He loves animals, but doesn’t love eating them.

Meet Alissa: Jewish Sports Fan of the Week!

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured with GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to

German opera singing. Indigenous language preservation. Aaron Judge wedding fantasies. Alissa Platz is one unique lady. Get to know her in this exclusive interview!

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Alissa: I’m from central New Jersey, went to college at American University and have been here ever since.

Allie: I hear you work at AJC. What motivated you to become a Jewish professional?

Alissa: Growing up, I was the only Jewish person of my friend group, so Judaism took a back seat. But, my mom always instilled in me that it was important to be proud of my Judaism. I associate the Jewish community with positive childhood memories, and I love the values of being Jewish, like tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah (charity).

When I went to college, I really tried to get involved in the Jewish community in as many ways as I could. My Hillel director once said to me, “Why don’t you consider being a Jewish professional? You could make a great impact.” So, when I was looking at jobs, I looked in both International Relations (my major) and Jewish professional jobs – and landed at Sixth & I [and later went to AJC].

Allie: What do you do at AJC?

Alissa: I manage the young professional division at AJC called ACCESS, which empowers millennials to advocate for the values of AJC. On May 22nd, we are having a Young Diplomat Reception at Social Tables. This is one of our signature events that brings members of the Jewish young professional community together for a night of conversation around a specific theme. This year, the theme is sports and diplomacy. I’m personally a really big sports fan, so I’m excited to use a lot of sports puns in my Facebook posts [to promote this event].

Allie: What are your favorite sports?

Alissa: I’m a really big Yankees fan, and I love the Chile National Futbol team. I love watching sports in general, and am really excited to watch the World Cup this summer. I’m also a big Nationals fan. I love Mark Teixeira, Rhett Gardner, Derek Jeter is a classic, and Aaron Judge is my future husband.

Allie: Do you play any sports yourself?

Alissa: I’m in a rec softball league with DC Fray, we play each week next to the Washington Monument which is really beautiful. We haven’t won a game yet, but we’re working on it.

Allie: If you could be amazing at any sport what would it be?

Alissa: Baseball. But, that would require me being a lot taller than I am. I’d want to be catcher because you have to know what’s going on and strategize with the pitcher.

Allie: Where did your love of baseball come from?

Alissa: In middle school, my teacher always talked about the Yankees, and I wanted to be a part of the conversation. So, I started watching Yankees games with my dad every night. My dad turned 65 last year, and I took him to a baseball game and surprised him with his own personalized jersey.

Allie: What are you most excited about summertime?

Alissa: Warm weather, the heart of baseball season, and going to Italy with my friends! We’re going to go to Venice, Florence, and the Alps.

Allie: What’s your favorite smell and why?

Alissa: Freshly cut grass, I love warm weather and that smell signals to me that warm weather is coming.

Allie: What is something people might be surprised to find out about you?

Alissa: I love singing opera style –  in German.

Allie: Is there a quote that inspires you?

Alissa: Ellen Degeneres, who is a phenomenal human being, and the voice of Dory, says to “be kind to one another.” Today, politics can be pretty divisive, people are segregating themselves based on their political beliefs, and a lot of nasty things are being said by our elected officials – and we should all try to be kinder.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend free time in the city?

Alissa: I love being outside in nature. I love Rock Creek Park, the National Mall, and still have on my bucket list to go to Great Falls and Shenandoah. DC always has new festivals or activities happening, and I like to check the events section of Facebook or GatherDC’s calendar and see what’s coming up.

Allie: If you could be anything (besides an awesome Jewish community professional) what would you want to be?

Alissa: I’d want to live in an indigenous community in Latin America studying indigenous languages, and how to preserve them.

Allie: What do you find funny?

Alissa: A combination of 6-year old boy humor, SNL, and observational humor. I love John Mulaney, and also really love a good pun. I feel like an old soul trapped in a 24 year old’s body.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alissa: We play Jewish Geography.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The Four Types of Jewish Mothers in Our Lives

The top definition of “Jewish Mother” on Urban Dictionary is: “An unstoppable force of nature that will feed you, pamper you, and pester you at the slightest provocation, known to spout Yiddish randomly. Be warned: if you come to my house, you WILL leave with a full stomach and a bag of leftovers.”

I could not have come up with a better definition of a stereotypical Jewish mother if I had tried. However, from my experience, Jewish mothers come in a variety of different forms that cannot all be encompassed in this definition. These are the four Jewish mothers I have encountered during my twenty-six and a half years of life.

The “Jewish mom” of your friend group

Do you have that one friend who has anything you could ever possibly need at a moment’s notice? In my group of friends, this has 100% been me. Do you need a Band-Aid because your heels are giving you a blister? Check. Do you need some snacks because we are not eating lunch for another hour? Check. Do you have a headache from lack of sleep and need some ibuprofen? Check. I pride myself on being prepared for any situation that may arise and my friends know this about me.

Being the “Jewish mom” of your friend group in action

I had a coworker who was moving to a new home and had anxiety about stocking his kitchen. I of course took this opportunity to take him grocery shopping after work for anything he may need, and stocked his freezer with easy-to-make meals.

One time, I was with some girlfriends on a weekend trip and one of my friends met a very nice man. He walked her home, but then didn’t get the hint that he was not invited upstairs to our hotel room. I was the friend standing at the door telling him it was time to go back to his own place. This is not the first time I have done this for a friend.

Your “Jewish mom” at the office

As a young adult who does not live close to home, I always seem find coworker who has decided to become my “Jewish mom away from home”. Is this a perk of working at Jewish nonprofit organizations? Maybe. But I take full advantage of it!


Being a “Jewish mom” at the office in action

At one of my previous jobs, I dog-sat for one of my “Jewish moms” from my office. Now, just having a cute puppy to spend time with was enough of an incentive to make this worthwhile for me. But every time I went over to my coworker’s house, she always had my favorite snacks ready for me. One time, she had my favorite – Chicago style popcorn (caramel and cheese popcorn mixed together) in her house. After I left that day, she realized that all the cheese popcorn was gone and only the caramel was left. The next time I was over, there was a whole bag of cheese-only popcorn waiting for me. When I moved to DC, she made sure I was prepared by sending me off with a calendar of her adorable puppy, some dried mango, and a gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond.

I have met some of the best pseudo “Jewish moms” who have invited me to their families’ homes for the Jewish holidays. Whenever these incredible women see my favorite foods at the grocery store, they buy it and bring it into work the next day. They are the reason being in a city on my own, away from my family has not been as difficult as I thought  – and I am beyond grateful for that.

Your first friend to become an actual Jewish mom

I have been excited to have kids since I was young. I always thought I would be a young mom and start this chapter of my life shortly after college. Of course, you cannot plan these things, and I did not end up being a young mom. But, at the age of 24, my first Jewish friend officially became a mother, and I cannot put into words how excited I have been to spend time with her little mush.

After spending hours on the phone with my friend, learning about her new life as a mom, and then spending four days watching her daughter while she was at work, I find that I am no longer in a rush to be a mom. I am in constant awe of my friend’s life as a mother, and truly have no idea how she finds enough energy daily. She takes care of her adorable baby, works, and runs her household. She has an awesome husband who equally supports their household, but I still do not understand how she has time for it all, while also finding time to create a song about me moving to a new city – to the tune of “Elmo’s World”, of course – and sleep.

As insane as this statement is, I did not realize how much having kids changes your life.

I am exhausted after a long day of work and going to a gym class. How in the world will I make it through sleepless nights with children? Needless to say, I am beyond impressed by my extraordinary friend, her endless stream of energy, and complete patience with her daughter at every moment. Right now, I am enjoying my current stage of life and no longer rushing to be at the “kids stage”. Until I get there, I will enjoy any babysitting time I get with my friend’s photogenic and hilarious daughter.

THE Jewish mom

Last, but certainly not least, is the Jewish mother for whom Urban Dictionary’s definition was tailor made for.

Being THE Jewish mom in action

The Jewish mom is the person who raises you to be the unique snowflake that you are. The Jewish mom is the woman who lent you her shoes when you accidently got in the car to go to school without taking off your slippers. The Jewish mom is the woman who sent you with Cheez-Its and Rolos to every youth group convention because those were your favorite snacks – even when youth group conventions were four weeks in a row. The Jewish mom is the woman who you woke up at 2:00 a.m. because your college boyfriend decided this was the best time to facilitate a breakup, and there was just no way you were going to end up sleeping that night. The Jewish mom is the woman who you can share shoes and clothes with when you forget to bring the right outfit home for the weekend.

While your Jewish mom may know how to lay on the guilt about the fact that you do not live close to home, she is also the amazing lady who you can call anytime you need to vent, laugh, or gossip.

Whether I need someone to help me move, or I need someone to keep me company while I am walking from one class to another, I always know my incredible Jewish mom will be there any time I need.

So, in time for Mother’s Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to to tell all the amazing moms in this world – no matter what their religion – thanks for being you. I would not be where I am today without these amazing women – but especially my own mom. Whenever someone tells me I am just like her, I know that is the best compliment they can give me.



About the Author: Marisa Briefman is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is a recent DC transplant who was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida – likely where your grandparents live. Her love of all things Jewish began at overnight camp and continues to thrive in her role at ADL. She is coffee addict, lover of Mexican food, and on a permanent mission pet all the adorable dogs in DC (if someone is in need of a dog-sitter, email me).



Editor’s Note: This article is meant to be taken as satire. We acknowledge that all mothers, regardless of religious background of upbringing, have their own unique parenting styles, personalities, and behaviors.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Apply Now for GatherDC’s Giving Circle

Make an impact.

In just 4 weeks, you can make a lasting impact on your community.

This June, GatherDC is launching a 4-week long Giving Circle that will bring together a group of passionate young adults who pool their money to give to nonprofits across the DC-area seeking to improve the lives of those who need it most. As a whole, the group will donate $1,000+ to a local nonprofit of their choosing.


What will you do as a part of the Giving Circle?

  • Attend 3 learning sessions led by GatherDC’s Jackie Zais and Mollie Sharfman to explore Jewish values related to charity
  • Attend 1 Giving Circle dinner where you will vote on which nonprofit to donate the money to
  • Discover your unique commitment to social change through philanthropy

Why should you apply?

  • Meet like-minded young adults who share your passion for philanthropy and tikkun olam (repairing the world)
  • Discover the power of collective giving at valuable learning sessions
  • Explore Jewish values related to philanthropy
  • Make a meaningful difference in your community

Dates: Wednesdays from 7:00 to 9:00pm on June 6, June 13, June 20, and June 27, 2018

Location: All meetings will take place at GatherDC’s office in Dupont Circle (1817 M Street NW)

Contact: For questions, contact Mollie Sharfman at




Applications are due by Wednesday, May 20th at midnight.

Note: As a part of the GatherDC Giving Circle, you agree to donate $100 to the Giving Circle pool that will be donated to a local nonprofit organization the group decides on together.






GatherDC is committed to making Jewish experiences accessible for young adults in a variety of circumstances across the DC area. If cost is a barrier, please email GatherDC welcomes the participation of interfaith individuals, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. GatherDC fosters inclusive communities and strives to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If your require special accommodations, please contact us in advance of the event at 202-656-0743 and we will make every effort to meet your needs. 

By attending, you understand that photographs and/or video may be taken at this event, and may appear on the GatherDC website, publications, or other media.

Meet Alyssa: Jewish Moishe House Resident of the Week

Want to nominate your amazing Jewish friend to be featured on GatherDC? Send his/her name, brief blurb, and contact info to

Alyssa Silva is a woman of many talents. She can plan a 300 person Jewish event, sell kosher meats to farmer’s market samplers, and dominate on the softball field. This is why we’re pretty bummed she’s leaving us this summer 🙁 Before she goes, we wanted to make sure all of our readers have the chance to get to know her, and both meet and say goodbye in person at her going away party this coming Sunday. Alyssa – thanks for all you have done and continue to do to make Jewish DC so incredible! We will miss you.

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Alyssa: I was coming from Tucson, Arizona. When I decided I wanted to move to DC, I reached out to my friend Tiffany Harris  – who I met at a Moishe House retreat in Arizona – to see if she knew of any housing or job opportunities. She told me there was a resident opening at Moishe House Columbia Heights. One thing led to another, and I moved into that house with Tiffany soon after!

When the Moishe House Columbia Heights accepted me, I drove cross-country to move into the house and figured I would find a job later.

Allie: What is it like living in a Moishe House?

Alyssa: It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve lived here for two years and have seen four different people move in and out as residents. I’ve seen our community change a lot in two years, everything from people who just want to party and meet Jewish singles, to people who want to pursue Jewish learning. I’ve hosted over 168 programs since being here! Overall, I’ve made some really good friends, and met hundreds of people who I’ve connected with in some way.

Allie: What Moishe House program stands out the most?

Alyssa: The Syrian Sweets Soiree. This event went viral. We released the event and overnight there were over 3,000 people said they were interested on Facebook. The event tickets were donation-based and would go to the Syrian American Council, and we had a speaker who was speaking about Syrian refugees and the crisis there. We had sold over 500 tickets and raised over $5,000 to help Syrian families trying to resettle in the U.S. Since we couldn’t fit 500 people in the Moishe House, we held it at Hawthorne, which gave us their rooftop space for free.

Allie: I hear that you’re soon going to be leaving us to live in Israel. Tell me about that!

Alyssa: I’ve decided that it’s time to continue my education and am going to be doing a Jewish Experiential Educators program at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem! I’ll be moving out of Moishe House at the end of May, and you’re all invited to my going away party this coming Sunday!

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Alyssa: With people that I love, having a beautiful song-led Kabbalat Shabbat where everyone is singing followed by a delicious dinner with lots of wine and talking.

Allie: I hear you keep pretty busy in DC, tell me about that.

Alyssa: I have four jobs! My main job is at Maryland Hillel where i am the Programming and Operations Associate. I’m also a peer-led retreat mentor with Moishe House, and a Moishe House resident so I plan programs programs [as a part of this role]. I also work at the Bethesda Central Farm Market for a kosher meat distributor called CWS where I help him sell kosher sandwiches and ribs.

Allie: Wow! How did wind up working at the Bethesda Central Farm Market?

Alyssa: I was on JSwipe one day and swiped right on a guy named Hillel. He then messaged me and asked if I wanted to help him sell meat on Sundays. I didn’t totally get what he meant, but he explained that his brother owns a meat business and wanted someone to help with sales. This was before I found my job at Maryland Hillel, so I said “sure”! It was a way I could make some easy cash on Sundays. It’s super fun and the guys are awesome.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Alyssa: I play softball every week with DC Fray (just like Alissa!). Finding this team was one of the first things I did when I moved to DC. I played softball in high school, it’s one of my favorite things to do. I didn’t know anyone on the team, and now I’ve been on the same team for two years! I also wind down by being a the farmer’s market on Sundays. It’s super calm and just fun. I’m your typical extrovert – so sitting in my room not talking to anyone would make me stressed out.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model and why?

Alyssa: My mom. Growing up, it was really important to my mom that I learn about my Jewish heritage, because she didn’t grow up with that. My mom and I learned about Judaism together. When I was in middle school, my mom taught a class called Social Action Sunday at my Hebrew School. Instead of sitting in a classroom, she had us go to a men or women’s shelter or animal rescue and actually do tikkun olam together. My mom has always pushed me to be the ultimate kind person and be a Jewish role model to my peers.

Allie: What’s at the top of your bucket list?

Alyssa: Portugal. My last name is Portuguese, and there’s all of this history we don’t know about my father’s side of the family. I’d love to do some digging on that.

Allie: if you could eat only 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

Alyssa: Sushi, specifically salmon sashimi. Gefilte fish. And brisket.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Alyssa: We make noise.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Your 2018 Shavuot Guide

Shavuot is here! For those wanting a quick refresher on the holiday, here’s a 2-minute Q&A to curb your curiosity.

Q) “What’s Shavuot?” 

A) Shavuot, AKA: “Feast of the Weeks”, is a two-day holiday celebrated 50 days after the first Passover seder (this year,  it goes from sundown on May 19 to sundown on May 21), marking the end of the 50 day counting period between the two holidays. It is believed that the Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai on Shavuot more than 3,300 years ago. To celebrate, it is customary to stay up all night long learning Torah. This is called a Tikkun Leil Shavuot. In recent years, many Jews have started to reimagine Shavuot…engaging not only with traditional Torah texts, but also with more contemporary texts and art. Learn more.

Q) “Do I get the day off work for this?”

A) Technically, we’re not supposed to work on Shavuot. We’re supposed to rest, eat a lot of dairy products (get those Lactaid pills ready), and dive into hardcore Torah study. But, how you choose to celebrate is ultimately up to you.

Q) “Do I have to fast for this one?”

A) Fret not. Rather than fasting, Shavuot involves eating a lot of cheesecake and milkshakes. There’s several reasons for eating dairy meals on this holiday, here’s a few.


Sound like a holiday you could get into? Why not start this year? Here’s some fun Shavuot happenings across DC this month:


Don’t see your event listed? Submit it to our calendar, and then shoot us an email.

Saturday, May 19

Sunday, May 20


Food for Shavuot

1:1 with Artist Jeremy Schonfeld

I recently had the opportunity to speak with creator of the new theatrical concert “Iron & Coal” – Jeremy Schonfeld, and Strathmore’s Vice President of Programming – Joi Brown. Jeremy, Joi, and I discussed the upcoming world premiere performance of “Iron & Coal” at the Strathmore performing arts center.

To provide some background, “Iron & Coal” is a remarkable, theatrical concert about a father-son relationship built in the shadow of the Holocaust. This show is inspired by the memoir of Schonfeld’s father, and will feature a rock band, full orchestra, and over 120 adult and youth voices, including some of our very own young Jewish professional community members!

Iron & Coal composer Jeremy Schonfeld

Stacy: How did you begin working on Iron & Coal?

Jeremy: The show was originally based on an album I created in Vienna in 2011. It’s a concept album based around a father and son, and their parallel emotional journeys. It’s a true to life story based on my own father and I. My father wrote his memoir, “Absence of Closure in 2009. I had initially wanted to musicalize his memoirs, but instead decided to focus on our psychological mindsets, rather than a linear retelling of his stories.

Stacy: Did your father ever hear the album?

Jeremy: I was able to play one of the songs for him from the album just before he passed away. The album came out around the same time that he passed away.

Stacy: Why do you think young adults will be interested in this show?

Jeremy: The show is a mix of harsh, angry, and beautiful with rock and orchestral music that is uplifting, but also has a rawness to it. The piece incorporates multimedia, with a vibe that is Pink Floyd meets the Who’s Tommy. I wanted to take a modern approach to what I do. My hope is that you won’t know exactly where things are going.

Also, I think it’s important that our generation – as children and grandchildren of survivors – is able to explore the emotional journey of the Holocaust.

Joi: This performance does not simply tell the Holocaust story, but rather looks at this topic in a new way. It acknowledges that the next generation has this story in their DNA, that there is a history there, but [the millennial generation] processes it in different ways.  It is a piece that captures people’s emotions, while looking at a collective history. The next generation is given the chance to reflect on this. Jeremy’s musical style is very accessible, and draws on artists and performances from Billy Joel to “Rent” to classical choral passages.

Stacy: Why did you decide to bring “Iron and Coal” to Strathmore?

Joi: Typically, we bring artists that have an established touring structure, but this was an opportunity to be direct partners with an artist on a collaborative, community project. Our staff has personally been able to be involved in more of a long term process from working with soloists and casting to creating storyboards.

Iron & Coal animation by Tom Seltzer


“Iron & Coal” tickets are now on sale – use code “GatherDC” for 20% off your ticket price. Performances are this Thursday, May 3rd and Friday, May 4th. Check out a sneak preview.


About the Author: Stacy Miller is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. enjoys entertaining her large Jew crew at her home and is currently the Director of EntryPointDC, the 20s and 30s program of the Edlavitch DCJCC. She represents all things Northern Virginia as the Founder of NOVA Tribe Series and is a former GatherDCGirl of the Year Runner-Up. Most importantly, she wants you know she LOVES this community a-latke.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The Town That Was Once a Concentration Camp

Theresienstadt is just a town. A small village, really, with a patch of green grass framed by sleepy sidewalks residing at its center. As we stood in the center, I noticed the ashen trees that lined the seemingly abandoned alleyways.

They were the same trees which appeared in the drawings hanging in the museum; drawings which were found curled up in the creases between the walls. Now, the walls have been re-worked with a fresh coat of paint. But not the trees. The dead trees still line the alleyways, like frozen ghosts which never leave.

It only took five minutes before I realized people live in Theresienstadt today. I couldn’t fathom how people wanted to live there—to eat, to sleep, to make love—in the place that had once been a concentration camp. “If you ask the residents why they are living here, they won’t understand the question,” explained the Czech tour guide. “It was their home before it was a concentration camp, so after the war they moved back.

Beyond the trees we saw the train tracks where thousands were shipped to extermination camps. A man walks his dog next to the tracks now.

Theresienstadt was the “show camp” for the outside world, a place where prisoners were allowed to draw pictures, make music, and act in plays. When the Red Cross came, the Jews changed the ending of Hansel and Gretel so that instead of the witch being thrown into the oven, the kids were cast into the oven instead. It was a warning, but the Red Cross missed it. They spent only five hours in Theresienstadt, two of which were spent eating lunch, and they deemed it humane. Two weeks later, those same little kids who played Hansel and Gretel were burned to death in Auschwitz.

Theresienstadt was meant for 6,000, but held nearly 60,000. Prisoners were forced to work with barely any food or water until their jagged cheek bones and hip bones became sharper than the biting outside air. They worked and lived and slept and breathed and diseased diseased diseased together until they perished from sickness or until they were shipped to an extermination camp.

The last place we visited was the crematorium, which engulfed 35,000 bodies. Somehow, that was only a drop in the bucket of the 11 million murdered during the Holocaust, 6 million of which were Jews.

We held small, round candles while we stood in the crematorium. I brought my pointer finger close enough to the flame to feel its heat on my flesh. G-d said, “Let there be Light,” and there was. And with that, he created the possibility for darkness. Humans took that possibility and made light their prisoner. They made fire their prisoner in the darkness of that crematorium.

I cradled the little piece of light in the palm of my hands. How does one reclaim the fire that burned up our people, my people, this nation, this religion, this race, this what? What are we but the remnants of something so horrific that we just try to forget? What is it that has kept us persevering longer than any nation in the history of the world?  What is the code that Jews live by?

Lithograph by Leo Haas (1901-1983), Holocaust artist, who survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz

Be a light unto the world. But the world burned us up.

Cupping his candle, which gently illuminated his ponytail and colorful knitted kippah, the Rabbi told us a story of how he and his students were kicked out of Auschwitz the year before. “To be honest, though,” he laughed, “if there is anywhere in the world you do want to get kicked out of, it’s probably Auschwitz.”

“Why did you get kicked out of Auschwitz?” we all asked.

“We were singing. We were singing “Am Yisrael Hai” (The People of Israel Live), and we were kicked out because we were told it was a somber place and singing was not allowed. But if Jews looked at suffering like that…if we weren’t the type of people to go back to these places and sing, we would never have survived.”

We stood together in a circle, none of us sure how to cry, if to cry, what to cry about when there is no way to comprehend. So we all stood, none of us crying, but none of us with dry eyes either.

And then, slowly, one voice joined another, the lights of our candles dancing in unison with our breath as together we sang “Hatikvah” (The Hope), the Israeli national anthem.

Moments later our wicks disappeared, and we left for the airport to head back home to Jerusalem.


NOTE: To learn more about the lasting impact of the Holocaust on our peoplehood, join Mesorah DC for a special presentation with a survivor at Sixth and I Synagogue on Monday, May 7th.


About the Author: Idalia Friedson lives and works in DC. In her free time, she enjoys doing Krav Maga, singing too loudly, and attending Gather DC’s Wednesday night learning group with Rabbi Aaron Potek.





The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Valerie: Jewish Real Estate Agent of the Week

Get to know Valerie Bluestein, and then meet her – and other Jewish People of the Week – in person at our Jewish Person of the Year Celebration on May 10th!

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Valerie: I’m one of the very few DC natives! I was born at Georgetown Hospital, spent most of my childhood in Bethesda, and then went to college at University of Maryland. I’m pretty convinced that my parents brainwashed me into never moving more than 30 minutes away. Although, DC is a great place to live. So, if I’m going to be stuck somewhere, I’m glad it’s here.

Allie: What is it like to be married to the Pickle Eating Champion of DC (AKA: Max Bluestein)?

Valerie: My grocery bill has tripled, and I’ve learned to eat fast. Max is the eating champion of everything, not just pickles. I remember we had just started dating when he participated in one of the pickle eating competitions –and I was simultaneously impressed, revolted, and intrigued. But being married to Max is wonderful. We really have the best time together.

Allie: How did you meet Mr. Bluestein?

We have differing perspectives on whether our first date was a date. As someone who was taught to be courted, I didn’t count “lets meet up after my friend’s birthdayday dinner at 11pm” as a date. I thought that was just a friendly get-together. So, when I texted him before that “get-together” that I couldn’t make it, he thought I stood him up (I thought we could just reschedule)…so we didn’t talk for 3 years. Luckily, we reconnected at a Jewish event and were able to explain each of our sides of the story, confess that we both had crushes on each other, and seal it with a kiss. Good thing he’s already had his Jewish Person of the Week interview, so I’ll get the final say on this :).

Allie: Why – did you become a real estate agent?

Valerie: I’ve always been fascinated by real estate, and HGTV was always in the background at home. I’m not sure why I never considered it as a career before now. But, I decided it was time to change gears after being at my job for 8 years. After having lots of informational interviews, I decided to dive into real estate sales since it incorporates all of the skill-sets I’ve developed, and I would be doing what i love most.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to spend Shabbat?

Valerie: Enjoying a dinner with close friends.

Allie: What is your number one piece of house-hunting advice?

Valerie: You’re going to have to think with both your head and your heart. There’s so much that goes into the process – financial, emotional. It’s exciting and scary, and really important that you find  a real estate agent who understands what you want and need, and gets your personality.

Allie: What is your favorite show to binge watch?

Valerie: I’ve already watched “Veronica Mars” 3 times, and I would be down to watch it again anytime.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Valerie: A combination of exercise, reading, or napping.

Allie: What’s at the top of your travel bucket list?

Valerie: Being married to Max has increased my travel 1,000%. I’d love to go to Hawaii next.

Allie: Complete the sentence: When Jews of DC Gather…

Valerie: There’s a lot of food and a lot of fun.



The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Improv Workshop

Learn improv for FREE with Rabbi Aaron Potek as he leads a 3-week workshop on his 2 favorite things: Judaism and improv.
Improv and Judaism can be seen either as a fringe hobby or a way of life. In this three-week-long workshop, we’ll attempt to unpack some wisdom behind both improv and Judaism, with a focus on where these two philosophies intersect. The workshop will integrate Jewish texts and improv exercises. Participants will come away with new perspectives on Judaism, fun improv games, and a “spiritual” practices to incorporate into their daily interactions. No prior experience with a background knowledge of improv or Judaism required.


What: Jewish Improv Workshop
WhenTuesdays from 7-9 pm, May 15, 22, and 29
WhoDC-area Jewish young adults
Where: GatherDC’s Townhouse – 1817 M St
Cost: Free
Questions: Email Mollie Sharfman at
DEADLINE TO APPLY: Friday, May 4th at 5 pm 


About Rabbi Aaron Potek
Aaron Potek was born and raised in Saint Louis Park, MN and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Engineering. After receiving rabbinical ordination from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in Riverdale, NY, he served as the campus rabbi at Northwestern University. Aaron currently works with Jewish 20’s and 30’s as the Community Rabbi for GatherDC in Washington, DC. He has studied improv at UCB in NY, iO in Chicago, and WIT in DC. He currently performs with Keegan Hines on the two-person team “Double Stuff”